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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE
nothing of the technical merits of the translation, had it printed
in the local paper. This precipitated a scholarly row, partly
flattering to Boole, partly humiliating.
A classical master denied that a boy of twelve could have
produced such a translation. Little boys of twelve often know
more about some things than their forgetful elders give them
credit for. On the technical side grave defects showed up. Boole
was humiliated and resolved to supply the deficiencies of his
self-instruction. He had also taught himself Greek. Determined
now to do a good job or none he spent the next two years slav-
ing over Latin and Greek, again without help. The effect of all
this drudgery is plainly apparent in the dignity and marked
Latinity of much of Boole's prose.
Boole got his early mathematical instruction from his father,
who had gone considerably beyond his own meagre schooling by
private study. The father had also tried to interest his son in
another hobby, -that of making optical instruments, but Boole,
bent on his own ambition, stuck to it that the classics were the
key to dominant living. After finishing his common schooling he
took a commercial course. This time his diagnosis was better,
but it did not help him greatly. By the age of sixteen he saw
that he must contribute at once to the support of his wretched
parents. School teaching offered the most immediate opportu-
nity of earning steady wages  in Boole's day 'ushers', as assis-
tant teachers were called, were not paid salaries but wages.
There is more than a monetary difference between the two. It
may have been about this time that the immortal Squeers, in
Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, was making his great but unappre-
ciated contribution to modern pedagogy at Dotheboys HaH
with his brilliant anticipation of the 'project' method. Young
Boole may even have been one of Squeers' ushers; he taught at
two schools.
Boole spent four more or less happy years teaching in these
elementary schools. The chilly nights, at least, long after the
pupils were safely and mercifully asleep, were his own, He still
was on the wrong track. A third diagnosis of his social unworthi-
ness was similar to his second but a considerable advance over
both his first and second. Lacking anything in the way of
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